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Species Guide

Tawny-faced Gnatwren

Microbates cinereiventris

The Tawny-faced Gnatwren, also known as the Half-collared Gnatwren, is a diminutive bird belonging to the Polioptilidae family. With a length ranging from 9 to 11 cm and a weight between 10 to 14 grams, it is a small, active creature. Both sexes share a similar plumage, characterized by a rusty face with a rufous crown and a distinctive thin black stripe behind the eye. A prominent black malar stripe contrasts sharply with the white throat and upper breast, which is adorned with fine black streaks. The bird's back is a muted brown, while its underparts are a soft gray.

Identification Tips

When attempting to identify the Tawny-faced Gnatwren, look for its rusty facial features and the thin black postocular stripe. The black malar stripe and streaked upper breast are also key characteristics. Note the variations in cheek and underparts coloration among the different subspecies, which can aid in identification.


This species typically resides in the lower strata of wet, humid, primary and secondary forests. It prefers elevations below 750 meters, although one subspecies, M. c. unicus, is known from a single specimen in a drier habitat.


The Tawny-faced Gnatwren is found across a range of countries in Central and South America, including Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Panama, and Peru. Its distribution is divided among several recognized subspecies, each with its own geographical range.


The Tawny-faced Gnatwren is known for its active foraging behavior, hopping through undergrowth near the ground and sifting through foliage and leaf litter. It often joins mixed-species foraging flocks but is not commonly seen following army ant swarms.

Song & Calls

The song of this species is a series of soft, clear, plaintive notes, reminiscent of 'teeeeea' or 'teeeéuw'. Its most common call is a nasal 'nyeeeh' or 'nyaaah', and it also produces a chattering sound.


Breeding information for the Tawny-faced Gnatwren is limited. Nesting has been observed in April in Costa Rica and from December to May in Colombia. The nest is made of green moss with a soft inner lining, placed on the trunk and limb of a broadleaf shrub, and typically contains two eggs.

Diet and Feeding

Ants and other insects form the primary diet of the Tawny-faced Gnatwren, with spiders also included. Its foraging technique involves searching through leaf litter and foliage close to the ground.

Conservation status

The IUCN has classified the Tawny-faced Gnatwren as Least Concern. However, it is important to note that three of its races are restricted to ecoregions that are considered seriously threatened due to habitat loss.

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Tawny-faced Gnatwrens on Birda


More Gnatcatchers

A photo of a Blue-grey Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea) , male

Blue-grey Gnatcatcher

Polioptila caerulea
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